United Kingdom

Lockdown UK: Wetherspoon will reopen 860 pubs once Covid restrictions are eased on May 17

Wetherspoon will reopen 860 pubs with full menus and will bring back meal clubs including curry and steak nights from next Monday as coronavirus restrictions are finally eased.

Next week 309 more pubs will be opened including a new branch, the Buck Inn in Northallerton, from 8am until midnight from Sunday through to Thursday, and 8am until 1am on Friday and Saturday. 

Under the Government's third phase of the lockdown roadmap, groups of up to six people or two households in England will be allowed to eat and drink indoors from Monday, with curbs to be eased completely on June 21.

However, pub and hospitality bosses have warned that firms will continue to lose money until restrictions are fully lifted, adding that they will have 'precarious' finances until next month.  

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night confirmed at a Downing Street press conference that pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality firms will be able to open indoor areas on May 17.

He said they will be able to reopen these areas in line with the original roadmap after case numbers tumble and the UK's four chief medical officers agreed to move the country's coronavirus alert from Level 4 to Level 3 thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout.

Responding to Mr Johnson's announcement, Patrick Dardis, chief executive of pub group Young's, said: 'Young's accepts the cautious approach the Prime Minister has been taking. 

'All of us hope that this means that we can safely and sensibly get to the end of the road, when relaxation of restrictions are indeed irreversible. It has been a brutal 14 months for a sector that employs millions of people and contributes billions of pounds to the Treasury in normal times.'

People, some wearing protective face coverings make a toast inside the Wetherspoon pub, Goldengrove in Stratford in east London on July 4, 2020

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night confirmed at a Downing Street press conference that pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality firms will be able to open indoor areas on May 17 

The move to downgrade the alert level — agreed by all four of the UK's chief medical officers and a senior NHS official — means the coronavirus is now only in 'general circulation' and transmission is no longer 'high or rising exponentially'

According to the real estate adviser Altus Group, 99,045 indoor hospitality premises in England will be able to reopen on May 17. Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, said: 'It's great that from next Monday we'll be able to welcome our customers back inside our pubs and get more of our team members back to work.

'Since we reopened outdoors in some of our pubs in April, frequent spells of cold and wet weather have made it particularly trying for our teams who are serving our customers outside.

'Even though the vast majority of our of our pubs will be open next week, we'll still be operating at significantly reduced capacity, so it's essential all restrictions disappear as promised on June 21 so we can return to the full pub experience that people have missed so much.'

Just six Wetherspoon pubs will not be reopening next week - two at the NEC in Birmingham, and pubs in Stansted, Doncaster, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, the Sun reports. 

Since April 12, pubs have only been allowed to pull pints for punters in beer gardens - but just 40 per cent of the industry has been able to do so, according to industry bodies.

Four-hundred-and-thirty-eight Wetherspoons pubs in England are already open but they are offering a reduced menu due to limited seating capacity - meaning Spoons customers have not been able to order its famous curries, mixed grills and steaks for months. 

However, Tuesday May 18 will see the return of steak club, while curry club is back on Thursday. Fish Friday is also making a comeback as well as Sunday brunch. The deals include a meal and a drink but prices vary depending on the branch so it's worth checking in before placing an order. 

There are currently 32 Wetherspoons branches open for outdoor service in Wales, while the remaining 18 are expected to open for indoor dining from Monday too.

The 60pubs in Scotland are already open for indoor customers, though they are not allowed to service booze except to outdoor drinkers. Three branches in Northern Ireland are also open for outdoor service, with restrictions expected to lift to allow indoor service from May 24. 

However, industry leaders are sounding the alarm about the finances of thousands of firms whose trade has been decimated during the pandemic.  Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality, said: 'This is a much welcome and vitally important next step, as we continue along the road map to remove restrictions.

'There is a huge sense of relief within the sector, in particular for the six in 10 venues that were not able to reopen over recent weeks due to a lack of outdoor space.

'However, with significant restrictions still in place, this is a psychological opening rather than an economic one, with the profitability of the sector still a huge issue.

'This is why sticking to the road map and the removal of all restrictions by June 21 is absolutely crucial, enabling venues to finally operate in viable conditions, after 14 months of severely disrupted trading.'

And Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said: 'While I welcome today's announcement, we need to remember that hospitality operators across the country are not yet out of the woods.

'Many will be reopening for the first time this year, and all will be in financially precarious positions that will affect them for years to come.

'Although they will be allowed to reopen from next week, operators will continue to make a loss while measures such as social distancing, capacity limits and table service are still in place.'       

What CAN you do from May 17? Britons will be able to hug 'close friends and family', drink a pint INSIDE a pub and finally go on holiday again as limit on mourners at funerals is lifted and cinemas, museums and hotels reopen 

Hugs with family and friends and indoor socialising will be allowed from next Monday after a further easing of Covid-19 rules in England was confirmed today.

The next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown will go ahead as planned on May 17, with up to six people or two different households allowed to meet indoors.

Most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 outdoors will stay illegal until at least June 21 - the final stage of the roadmap.

But indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatre and soft play areas and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will all reopen.

The rest of the accommodation sector will also return, with people from different households now allowed to mix in hotels and self-catering properties.

The much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events.

More than 50million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK as the Government said it is on track to offer all adults a first dose by the end of July. 

Here, MailOnline looks at what your newfound freedoms will be from May 17: 

Can people come over to my house again?

Yes. Up to six people from multiple households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be allowed to visit you inside your house again.

Can people stay over at my house again?

Yes. People from outside your household will be allowed to stay overnight, as long as you stick to within the rule of six or two households.

Can I still meet people outside?

Yes. You will now be able to meet in groups of up to 30 people outside. Bigger groups will be illegal. Until May 17, you can still only meet outside in groups of six.

A member of bar staff wearing a face masks serves drink in a pub in East London in July 2020

Can I hug my friends and family again?

Yes. The Government has said you can hug 'close friends and family' from outside your own household - for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

However, people are being urged to be 'exercise their own personal judgement in line with the risks.' There is no legal definition on who 'close friends and family' are.  

The Government also said wider social distancing rules will remain in place in adult social care, medical, retail, hospitality and business settings.

Can you sit inside a pub again?

Yes, indoor hospitality will resume – so you can sit inside a pub or restaurant with people from other households, as long as the rule of six (or two households) is met.

Will there be a substantial meal or curfew requirement for pubs?

No. As with step two on April 12, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew.

An audience sit at the Pavilion theatre in Weymouth for a pantomime in December last year

Will you be able to stand at the bar?

No. Customers will still have to order, eat and drink while seated at a hospitality venue – even though they will now be allowed inside.

Will indoor entertainment venues now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres, museums and indoor children's play areas will all be allowed to reopen, but must follow guidelines on social distancing and face masks.

Concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia will also be allowed to reopen, with larger events in all venues able to resume with capacity limits (see below). 

Will venues face capacity limits?

Yes. Larger performances and sporting events will be capped in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is a lower number. For outdoor venues the cap will be 4,000 people or half-full - again, whichever is lower.

In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend - or a quarter-full, whichever is lower.

Football fans at Wembley Stadium at a pilot event for the FA Cup semi-final last month 

Will social distancing and face masks rules remain for now?

Yes. The one-metre (3ft) rule remains in place in public settings such as pubs, shops and restaurants. You should wear a face mask when walking around these places.

What about children wearing masks in schools?

Secondary school children will no longer have to wear face masks in classrooms and corridors from May 17. However, those aged 11 and above will still be required to wear the masks in public settings such as shops, unless they have a medical exemption.

Ministers said infection rates among students and staff continue to decrease in line with wider community transmission, but twice weekly home testing will remain. 

Will students be able to attend university lectures in person again?

Yes. All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching. They will be expected to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

Most students, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8. But it is estimated that about half of university students have not been eligible to return to in-person lessons.

Cinema-goers in their seats for a film at the Odeon Leicester Square in London last August

Can I go on holiday abroad again?

Yes, but with many restrictions. Last Friday, the UK Government cleared just 12 destinations for quarantine-free tourist trips for Britons from May 17.

However, many of the destinations are remote islands or have very strict entry measures or blanket bans on UK tourists, further reducing the list of options.

Portugal and Gibraltar are the only countries on the 'green list' that most Britons will realistically be able to visit for a warm weather holiday this month (see below).

You can technically also go on holiday to 'amber list' and 'red list' countries again too, but you will need to complete a period of quarantine as follows:

For amber list, you must quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight - as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight.

Or there is an alternative option that you could pay for an additional 'Test to Release' on day five to end self-isolation early. There is also a chance the country turns red.

Those returning from a red list country must stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 11 nights upon their return at a cost of £1,750.

Will there be a new limit on wedding numbers?

Yes. Up to 30 people will now be able to attend weddings. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.

Will funerals also now be limited to 30 people?

No. There will now be no limit of the number of mourners at funerals, although the venue must operate in a socially distanced way and within capacity guidelines.

Travellers arrive at London Heathrow Airport on May 3. Non-essential travel is set to reopen

Can you stay overnight somewhere with people from another family?

Yes. The rest of the accommodation sector will now reopen, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs - and people from different households can share the same room.

Up until May 17, if you want to stay at a hotel or self-catering accommodation, you must only do so with members of your own household or support bubble.

Can I go to indoor sport classes now?

Yes. All indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will be allowed again, five weeks after gyms were allowed to reopen under step two on April 12.

Will closed parts of leisure centres now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Saunas and steam rooms will now be allowed to reopen, following on from swimming pools and gyms on April 12.

There will be no more limits on mourners at funerals. Above: File picture of a funeral last July

Will there be limits on numbers in support groups?

Yes. The Government has said 30 people will now be able to attend a support group or parent and child group. The limit does not include children aged under five.

Will restrictions on care home visiting be changed?

Yes. Care home visiting will be eased further, with residents able to have up to five named visitors and more freedom to make 'low risk visits' out of the home.

Will the guidance on working from home change?

No. People are still being advised to 'continue to work from home where they can'.

Hugs with family and friends will be allowed again from May 17 (file picture posed by models)

What is the exact time that the rules change on May 17?

Unconfirmed. This is not yet clear, but the April 12 rule change towards step two came in at midnight, so it is likely this will be the same for May 18.

Are there businesses that still cannot reopen?

Yes. Nightclubs are the only businesses that must remain shut until at least June 21.

Is there a confirmed date for when all Covid rules will cease?

Not yet. The Government hopes that on June 21 it will be able to drop all legal limits on social contact, but this will be confirmed nearer the time.

Before this date, the Government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures such as face masks and guidance on working from home.

All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching (file)

Why can we now move into Step 3 on May 17?

The Government has set four tests to further ease restrictions, which have now been met. These are that:

It also comes after the UK Chief Medical Officers confirmed this morning that the UK Covid-19 alert level should move from level four to level three.

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